Cher-Impersonator Product Was M.I.A.

Songs Cher Should Cover

Sandc_2Since my first thought of having a Cher blog, I’ve wanted to include a feature called “Songs Cher Should Cover.” You run into so many songs here and there that you think have that special stamp of Cher-potential. I always thought Elton John’s “Take Me To The Pilot” would really kick ass and I felt a self-satisfied sort of delight when finally seeing her sing it with the Pointer Sisters on a re-run of her mid-70s Cher Show. However, in my fantasy it was a Sonny & Cher cover for some reason. I could see them arm in arm, rocking to the chorus: “Take me to the pilot; lead me to the chamber. Take me to the pilot; I am but a stranger. Na na na. Na na na!” (See picture to the right.)

I feel the same way about the song “Best Imitation of Myself” by Ben Folds Five. Not only does the song rock hardy, but Ben Folds’ lyrics seem truly written about Cher, like those Prisoner songs back in 1979, only smarter. (I mean we all know Cher loves to shop, but I’d like the few-and-far-between biographical numbers to be more informative than she buys one in every color.

I feel like a quote out of context…withholding the rest so I can be free what you wanna see.
I got the gestures, sounds, got and the timing down …it’s uncanny. Yeah you’d think it was me.

Did I make me up?
Or make this face ‘til it stuck?
I do the best imitation of myself.

It’s a song that says both “Impersonators out there, take heed – you can’t do this better than me” and  “Everyone else, I am the master of my show; stop judging me and piss off!”

To fully disclose, I’m a Ben Folds fan. I’ve seen Ben Folds Five play in New York City and I saw Ben Folds play alone at the Coachella Music Festival a few years ago. He was amazing without a band, just him pounding away on his piano. I love “Brick,” “Eddie Walker” and “Rockin the Suburbs.” Even the line

I take the check and face the facts as some producer with computers fixes all my shitty tracks

makes me smile like Bette Midler might before saying something snarky about “Believe.”

Ben Folds Five also mentions Cher in a cover of the Flaming Lips song, “She Don’t Use Jelly”

I know a girl who reminds me of Cher. She’s always changing the color of her hair.”

My Dad just sent me the Tom Waits’ album Orphans. I know many pop-fans find Tom Waits un-listen-able. My Ape Culture co-hort Julie Wiskirchen said “[Waits] sings and acts like a crazy person on the subway.” In many ways Waits is the anti-Cher. He’s so anti-image, this is his image. So anti-artifice, that’s his artifice. He’s the pinnacle of rock 'n' roll credibility and would never be caught dead on dance-floor speakers. He dresses down – way, way down. No wigs (as far as we know) and no glitter.

I had the Waits CD once with “Downtown Train” on it. I don’t know what happened to it, which means the CD found its way to the Salvation Army store. A scoundrelish Irishman I used to date re-introduced me to a few Waits tunes which I passed on to my Dad who is now a fan. I didn’t realize Waits sang “Ole 55.” Back then he sounded more like Gregg Allman than the smoking, hard-drinking, gnarly voice we’re hearing today. (Yes I know, Allman has a gnarly voice too; but there's really no comparison.)

I love the new album. The lyrics are stand-out poetry and the pieces are very melodious -- if some of you can get past his voice. Which if you’re acclimated to Sonny Bono shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, I think if it were not for Waits' rough-and-tumble image, these songs would be considered pop songs, they’re so catchy. The album has three CDs. Brawlers is bluesy, Bawlers is more about standards. I haven’t gotten to the last one, Bastards, yet.

But from the blues-infused Brawlers CD, two songs would be great to hear Cher cover: “Lowdown” and “Lost at the Bottom of the World.” They are lyrically strong (like her later Warner Bros material) and they offer contrast to her musical oeuvre, such as the ballads of It’s a Man’s World did. Those ballads gave Cher “a slow moment” in the overall show.

To this point, it was tragic when we lost “The Way of Love” from the set of Cher’s Farewell tour because that was the only quiet moment in a frantic, non-stop show. Just like Celebration at Caesars had “Take It To the Limit” and “On My Own,” the Farewell needed a ballad or two. We need a quiet, melodic contrast to all the lights and color, just as a visual design needs a contrast between light and dark or rough and smooth.

Plus, Waits would be a respectable choice for someone interested in amping up their rock 'n' roll street cred. In fact, “Ole 55” would be a great cover too.

And now the sun’s comin up
I’m riding with lady luck
Freeway cars and trucks…
Freeway cars and trucks…

If my mind’s somewhere else, you won’t be able to tell…
I do the best imitation of myself.



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